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Baby Formula and Palm oil

When you check the ingredients list on the back of your little ones’ baby formula, palm oil is most likely on the list. In many food goods, as well as many beauty products, palm oil is a common ingredient. The use and consumption of palm oil have lately been debated in newspapers and magazines often. We certainly got quite some concerned questions from parents about the palm oil present in the formulas we sell. The question out there: Is palm oil safe/healthy for a growing baby? What about the environmental impact? And why do manufacturers use palm oil in baby formulas?

What is palm oil?

The most used vegetable oil in the world is palm oil. Palm oil can be obtained via the fruit of the oil palm tree, also known as Elaeis Guineesis. When the oil palm tree is about 3 to 4 years old it will grow fruits underneath its leaves. These fruits are about the size of a large olive and when squeezed oil can be derived from them. This oil is used in many products we use and consume nowadays, like cosmetics and foods, like baby formula.

Fat in formula and breastmilk

The formulas from HiPP and Holle are produced with the purpose of creating a natural and organic product that is as close to breast milk as possible. It is made with ingredients that can provide a similar composition of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Roughly 50% of the calories that can be found in both breastmilk and formula come from fat. This fat functions as an energy source and also helps with the absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Infant formulas typically incorporate a blend of vegetable oils as their primary source of fatty acids. Palm, sunflower, safflower, and rapeseed oil are the most common vegetable oils used in baby formula, although coconut and soy oil are also used. The fatty acids in breast milk are determined by the diet of the mother. Babies are naturally able to digest a wide range of fatty acids and can even tolerate a slight change in the types of fatty acids from day to day. The most prevalent fatty acids in breast milk include oleic acid, palmitic acid, linoleic acid, and stearic acid.

Why do so many formulas contain palm oil?

Palm oil is a good source of palmitic acid, which accounts for approximately a quarter of the fatty acid content of breast milk. Palm oil is also an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin E. This is the reason why palm oil is used in so many formulas. Manufacturers around the entire world include palm oil as the main ingredient in their baby formula.

Effects of palm oil in baby formula

The main concern about the use of palm oil as a fat source is that it may decrease calcium absorption. The palmitic acid from palm oil is not absorbed as well as palmitic acid from breast milk. The palmitic acid from palm oil can end up “floating” in a baby’s intestines, where it binds with calcium molecules. This is not harmful or dangerous, but simply indicates that a certain amount of palmitic acid and calcium will not be absorbed. The undigested calcium and palmitic acid are eliminated from the body via a normal bowel movement. The decrease in calcium absorbed is compensated by an increase in calcium present in formula, so that babies are able to absorb all the calcium they need to grow strong bones.  

Is palm oil safe for babies?

Palm oil is perfectly safe for babies; it is used as a key ingredient in the healthiest organic formulas on the market by manufacturers such as HiPP and Holle. Research has also shown that prebiotics and probiotics are both beneficial for calcium absorption.  Prebiotic fibers are a key ingredient in all HiPP formulas, and probiotics are included in all HiPP formulas.

Is Palm oil farming harmful for nature.

HiPP is a company that has a large emphasis on sustainability. This is not different when it comes to palm oil. HiPP uses organic palm oil that comes from fair and sustainable production.

  • The oil is farmed from 100% sustainable sources and mainly from Rainforest Alliance (RFA) Certified plantations.
  • The palm trees used for palm oil are only planted on old pastures and farmland to prevent any rainforest from being cleared for cultivation.
  • The palm oil fields are organically farmed and mostly owned by small local holders.
  • The HiPP palm cultivation is certified organic and RFA-certified

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